Don’t worry - it probably won’t happen
Nearly two decades ago there was only one thing on people’s minds as new calendars replaced the old on walls and desks. Who remembers the Y2K phenomenon?, asks DAVE SAVIDES
WHATEVER it is that’s giving you sleepless nights and panic attacks as we enter 2019, chances are that it won’t happen.
That’s the reality, based on centuries of prophecies of doom and gloom from every sphere of human existence.
And what’s true on a universal level is also likely to be true on a personal level.
After all, who can remember what it was you were worrying about this time last year?
I guess there are reasons for our fears, among them the fact that: a) we are gullible, and b) we tend to believe everything the experts tell us – especially if they are people from the realm of science.
Here are just a few of the things they have got wrong over the years:
• Life expectancy was predicted to drop to 42 years of age by the year 1980. Instead, old bullets like myself, Lord willing, are highly likely to live long beyond our proverbial ‘threescore years and ten’;
• By now, the human race should have been extinct as a result of air pollution, mass starvation or any number of other causes. Rather than that, we have unprecedented over-population;
• Crude oil reserves should have been totally depleted long ago. They are still the greatest fuel for warmongers;
• We were meant to have been heading for an ice age by 2000, since air pollution was calculated to halve the amount of sunlight and warmth reaching earth. Ha! Tell that to the rising oceans;
• Avian flu, it was forecast by an eminent WHO authority, would kill over 150 million people. It actually killed fewer than 500;
• Of course, the greatest of miscalculations pertain to ‘end of the world’ prophecies, whether it be by scientists (alignment of plants, meteors and so on) or ‘religionists’ (I hesitate to call them theologians). I worked with people who literally gave away all their possessions, believing the world would end on a certain date. Not that their beliefs were one bit dented when the day passed uneventfully.
But surely, the biggest hoax ever played on mankind was the Y2K scare. Or was it?
For the younger generation, this related to the change from the year 1999 to the year 2000.
Also known as the ‘millennium bug’, it was believed all computers – or any other technology that contained a microchip – would fail because years were programmed only according to the last two digits, and so 2000 would be interpreted as 1900.
This would cause havoc: aircraft would fall from the skies, elevators would not function, water and electricity supplies would fail, transport would be gridlocked, medical equipment would shut down in ICU’s, etc, etc.
To say the public freaked out is an understatement.
So too did governments and large corporations and billions were spent rendering equipment, especially mainframe computers, ‘Y2K proof’.
People even built bunkers and stocked up on food, as during a war situation.
And so we waited in anticipation as the clock struck midnight on 31 December 1999.
Nothing happened. Not even a hint of chaos.
Was this the result of the precautions taken?
Or was it that an over-exaggerated scare fed by the massive computer industry had conned the world into transferring trillions of rands into its accounts?